Fearless = Brave * Bold * Courageous
Working with fearless educators is empowering! I joined Twitter in 2009; however, for years I had no idea how to interact with it. I would login and read a few posts from time to time and then logout unchanged. Fast forward a few years, I observed my very connected friend, Dani Burtsfield, learn and implement incredible instructional routines. As I passed her classroom, I continued to ask, “Where did you learn this?” She would explain that all of her new learning came from her PLN and she encouraged me to dust off my unused and disengaged Twitter account and join the #G2Great Twitter Chat while at the same time she was persistent that I create a Voxer account. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and fearful of the unknown.
Take a minute to foresee the learning possibilities.
This is where I had to take a minute and breath, knowing this learning investment would truly benefit my students. Modeling her fearless process of connecting through Twitter and Voxer, I jumped in and I am forever grateful! I learned so much from educators across the world and had the opportunity to reach out to amazing leaders who walked me through innovative implementations throughout my school. However, when I moved from Montana to Texas in July 2017, I let the transition get the best of me and I have not been as connected.
Continue to stretch your learning and fearlessly reignite learning connections.
This post idea came from much need reflection on what I would like to see stop in education. My friend and Digital Learning Coach, Sarah Fromhold, has modeled unbelievable leadership. Her passion for learning and doing what is truly best for our students inspired me to reignite my PLN. With her leading the way, I joined the Voxer group StopRightNow39. This encouraging group of educators are reading and discussing the book: Stop. Right. Now. The 39 Stops to Making Schools Better by Jimmy Casas and Jeffrey Zoul. Just listening this week, I have new perspectives on topics I never considered thinking about or changing for the better.
Fearless learning leads to collaborative innovation.
Because of Sarah’s leadership and encouragement, many of our team members at our school are fearlessly joining in on this learning journey; and with one Voxer conversation, Dani is a part of the group as well! During her last vox, she said, “What do you think about teaching some of your teachers how to participate in a Twitter Chat?”
The powerful learning journey continues.
Scroll, scroll, scroll, pause… scroll, scroll, and pause again- Two photos that might seem ordinary made me stop and reflect on simple yet incredible happenings at our school. Ultimately, these photos brought this thought to my mind.
300 students listening to a story.
A celebration lunch with students.
Leaders rise above to consistently do what is best for kids!
Last Friday, suspicious smoke was spotted in a classroom. In response, our staff and 600 students evacuated our building onto the wet field across our parking lot. As it began to rain, our team patiently waited for the fire department to complete a thorough investigation. Thankfully, they gave our team permission to have our students and teachers reenter the building on the opposite side to wait until we had the all clear to go back into our classrooms.
Leaders are bright lights for all to follow!
- As I hurried back and forth through the building, I quickly stopped to pause to take the first photo. The gym was nearly silent as one of our Fourth Grade teachers, , was reading a story to 300 third through fifth grade students. WOW! I was in awe to see all of the students listening and Tammy just doing what is best for kids!
- The fire department left the building very close to our scheduled lunch bunch celebration. Our Assistant Principal, , managed to work through our situation with our school district security and the fire department while simultaneously communicating to teachers and students that we were still going to have our celebration lunch. The room was prepared and ready with each student having his or her name written on butcher paper at a special spot. For the second photo, I asked everyone to pause.
Elliott Elementary is a special place. Students are first.
I am grateful to work alongside incredible people.
Students see, hear, and feel our emotions. As a member of a school team, our students never forget how our facial expressions and emotions make them feel. Jon Gordon put words to these emotions in a blog post: Positively Contagious. After reading and reflecting on his posts and many of his books, it is repeatedly confirmed that attitude is everything.
“Life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it.”- Charles R. Swindoll
My leadership focus is and will always be contagiously positive. At Elliott Elementary, our mission statement is:
Our Elliott Community celebrates and empowers ALL students – who they are and who they will become.
It is exciting to be a part of a contagiously positive community! As we complete our first month of school, view my two minute principal’s view.
“After reading this, I have realized that I have to change.” -Amazing Educator
As I reflect on another year, the statement above from one of our third grade teachers continues to rise to the top of my thoughts. This team wanted to be proactive and innovative with unexpected student behavior. After several discussions, we decided to begin reading and exploring Conscious Discipline.
If you have discovered this framework, you know it is a different way of thinking about classroom management and student behavior… a complete disruption in our traditional methods. Our approach to setting up classrooms, responding to student behavior, and keeping our emotions regulated takes intentional effort, practice, and dedication. To say the least, I have been in awe of the commitment of this team. Each member has taken the term getting out of your comfort zone to a new level.
A great teacher adjusts to the learner, not the other way around. – George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as:
1. An introduction of something new
2. A new idea, method, or device
As I focus on the needs of our students in 2018, innovation continues to be the one word that stands out. As we explore innovation at Elliott Elementary, we will repeatedly ask the question that George Couros presents in his book, Innovator’s Mindset, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?”
Moreover, I will continue to ask myself the following questions:
1. Would I want to be a teacher in my own school?
2. How am I leading innovation that facilitates our students to thrive in the 21st Century?
We are bringing on the innovation #boti and leading to inspire positive actions for student success! #L2ipa
As I watched the mountains shrink in my rear view mirror, my heart ached and my daughter’s tears grew larger and larger. Although we were excited for our journey, saying goodbye to friends and family in a community we cherished was painful. We had begun our move to Texas. During the three day car ride, we had many discussions about our next chapter and what life would be like…
On July 17th (my dad’s 75th birthday), I began my first day in Frisco ISD at Elliott Elementary. From the first moment I stepped on campus, I have been in awe of this community and their support of my transition into this position. Words cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for each person.
This school year marks my 20th year in education and I have had the privilege to work with public school educators in four different states: Indiana, California, Montana, and Texas. Having the opportunity to work alongside many different teachers across the country, I have realized five consistent and impressive characteristics about them:
- Teachers work tirelessly, working on the weekends and late into the evenings, to create lesson plans to meet the needs of each student and to collaborate with past and present teachers to learn everything they can about each child in order to lead them towards success.
- Teachers spend days creating the perfect classroom environment to ensure a high level of learning is accessible to ALL.
- Teachers intentionally build relationships with each student and their families to cultivate a trusting foundation.
- Teachers continue to read, research, blog, tweet, reflect and connect with educators across the world to learn and grow in their knowledge about how to better serve their students.
- Ultimately, teachers desire to positively change world.
The following video inspired me and led me to reflect on my above observations as I feel truly blessed to be an educator and to work with intentional teachers who are contagiously positive, changing the world – one student at a time.
As I grabbed the paintings and photos off the walls of my office at Hedges School, my mind was flooded with the incredible memories from the last nine years.
When you make the decision and commitment to become an educator, you make a way of life choice…it takes your heart and fills your mind with thoughts of continuous improvement.
*How can I make that lesson better?
*Did my students understand the success criteria?
*Do the parents of my students feel connected to my classroom or school?
*How can our team support all of our students in making greater academic gains?
It has been an honor to work with a team of educators who believe in and feel this congruent commitment! Kalispell’s School District #5 has provided me with an extended family who consistently supported me and authentically believed in me before I believe in myself. Throughout the last nine years, I have been provided with the skills, guidance, and the foundation to lead and inspire others to have the ultimate grit to ensure a positive impact for students to strive for academic, behavioral, and social success!
As I close the doors of Hedges School, I pause, take a deep breath, and feel extreme gratitude. Thank you to:
*Casey Bertram for taking a chance on me and mentoring my growth as an educational leader.
*Dan Zorn and Darlene Schottle for nurturing my growth as a leader and seeing my potential beyond the classroom.
*Merisa Murray for believing in and hiring me for my first administrator position as your Assistant Principal. Edgerton School welcomed me with open arms and overwhelmingly supporting my growth!
*Glenda Armstrong, Bill Sullivan, Jen Stein, and Rick Anfenson for your unconditional support, teamwork, and friendship.
*Mark Flatau and Andrea Johnson for your continued guidance through the ups and downs of leading an elementary school.
*Each member of my Hedges Team and Community for providing me with the opportunities to be a classroom teacher, a parent, and your principal. I smile and celebrate our laughs, disagreements, challenges, and successes! My life has been forever changed for the better because of each of you.
Ultimately, thank you to my family. I am grateful for your unconditional love and patience during the long days and filled weekends. You positively joined in the fun for so many of our school events. As we leave the Montana Mountains for the Big State of Texas, I am blessed that we can enjoy this journey together.
Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and I am compelled to SHOUT OUT and CELEBRATE the most powerful moment I shared with a teacher on my team this school year. The two of us were in my office processing a playground situation with a group of students. The situation among them was escalating outside on the playground and in the lunchroom; however, the disagreements and uncomfortableness among the peers were never represented in the classroom.
Both of us listened intently to the students, seeking first to understand all sides and perspectives… Then, we asked why do you feel this never happens in the classroom. Without hesitation, a student said, (with the others nodding in agreement)
“We always feel safe in our classroom. It is calm. We are relaxed. When we are in there, we don’t think about what else is happening.”
My heart jumped with utter excitement and my head turned immediately toward the teacher in complete admiration of what had been created within the classroom environment. Although we had to still make a plan for eliminating the problems within our common areas, I wanted to yell in celebration of this teacher, “You are a ROCK STAR!!! This is AMAZING and INCREDIBLE!!”
The #BookSnaps below from Principal Kafele’s, The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence represent who this teacher is and many others are for all students!
As I read and reflect on the powerful impact we have on our students each day, I am truly appreciative of the teams of teachers, principals, and district leaders with whom I have worked with across the country. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to be an educational leader! #JoyfulLeaders